Friday, May 7, 2010

Remember the Little Rascals?

It is okay to say you've only heard of them or watched them in reruns as I did.
Have you ever wondered what happened to them?
There is a rumored Our Gang curse, but I don't subscribe to that notion. First of all, I don't want to believe that children were/are ever cursed, and secondly, the rumor has some false info in it.
Here is the info that is going around in emails. Black font represents the email text, blue is added detail or correction from other sources.
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Alfalfa:  Carl Switzer was shot to death at age 31.
True. According to OUR GANG - LIFE AND TIMES OF THE LITTLE RASCALS by MALTIN AND BANN, Switzer was wounded in Jan 1958 when someone shot him as he was getting into a car. Then the next year, a fatal shot was delivered in a struggle over $50 with an ex-partner in a big game hunting business.
Chubby:  300-pound Norman Chaney died at age 22 following an operation.
True. His death was actually at 18, not 22 and it followed surgery for a glandular condition.
Buckwheat:  William Thomas died at age 49 of a heart attack. (wow I never knew that buckwheat was a man!!)
True. He died in Los Angeles in 1980 after a successful life as a film lab technician in Hollywood.
Darla Hood:  The Our Gang leading lady contracted hepatitis and died at age 47.
True. She died on June 13, 1979.
Brisbane:  Kendall McCormas, known as Breezy Brisbane, committed suicide at age 64.
True. The correct spelling of his name is McComas. According to published reports, he gave up show business to be an electrical engineer at the U.S. Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California. He committed suicide two weeks before his retirement in 1981.
Froggy:  William Robert Laughline was killed in a motor scooter accident at age 16.
True. Laughline was killed in a motor scooter accident near Huntington Beach, CA in the early 1950’s
Mickey Daniels:  He died of liver disease at 55.
True. His real name was Richard Daniels, Jr.  He died alone in a hotel of cirrhosis of the liver on August 20, 1970.
Stymie:  Mathew Bear led a life of crime and drugs. He died of a stroke at age 56. 
True and False. After leaving the Our Gang series as a child, Stymie reportedly acted through high school. He became addicted to drugs, especially heroin and spent much of his young adult years in an out of jail. In the 1980's got clean of drugs and both went back into acting and traveling doing drug abuse lectures. He died of Pneumonia.
Scotty Beckett:  He died at age 38 following a brutal beating. 
Unproven. According to Maltin and Bann's book, "The last 10 years of his life were filled with unpleasant stories of divorce, violence, drugs and arrests."  He checked into a Hollywood nursing home on May 8, 1968, needing medical attention after suffering a serious beating.
He died two days later.
Although pills and a note were found, no conclusion was made by the coroner as to the exact cause of death. According to the Internet Movie Database, he died of an overdose of barbiturates.
Wheezer:  Robert Hutchins was killed in an airplane accident at age 19. 
True. According to, he was killed during the last thirty minutes of his basic training at the Merced Army Air Corps field in California when his plane crashed on landing.
Pete, the pup:  He was poisoned by an unknown assailant.
Unproven. There were actually several different dogs used through the years as Pete the Pup, the canine star of films. There are several reports that the original Pete the Pup was poisoned by someone who gave him meat laced with glass. There is also an urban legend that Pete the Pup was buried with Alfalfa but we've found no evidence of that and Pete the Pup died long before Alfalfa.
Alfalfa loved hunting and apparently there is a dog on his tombstone that reflects that so that may have been a part of what prompted the urban legend about Pete the Pup.

Spanky:  Robert Blake was accused of murdering his wife. I did not know that was Robert Blake! Did any of you?  Wow!!!
False.  First, Robert Blake did not play Spanky in the Our Gang series. Spanky was played by George McFarland who went on to become a Forth Worth, Texas businessman before his death of a heart attack in 1993.
Robert Blake, who was cleared of charges of killing his wife, did appear in some of the later Little Rascals
episodes and played Mickey.

According to crime writer David Lohr, there are some additions to the Our Gang death list:

Robert H. Young "Bonedust" (9/15/17 - 9/10/51)
Died in a hotel fire, which started when he fell asleep smoking in bed.

Dorothy Dandridge "Dorothy" (11/09/23 9/08/65)
Committed suicide after an investment scheme caused her to go bankrupt.

Harold Switzer "Deadpan" or "Slim" - (1/16/25 - 4/14/67)
As was the case with his brother, Harold was also killed following a dispute with another man.

Darwood Kaye "Waldo" - (9/08/29 - 5/15/2002)
Killed by a hit and run driver while walking on the sidewalk.

Jay R. Smith "Jay R" - (8/29/15 - 10/05/2002)
Stabbed to death and left in the desert by a homeless man he had befriended.

Thomas Bond who played "Butch"
Bond is not mentioned in the eRumor, but just for the record, he died on 9/24/05 in Los Angeles of complications from heart disease, according to an Associated Press article on 9/25/05.  He was 79.

From the data above we find that 54% of the actors are still alive or lived to be at least 72 years of age. Also, 75% of the actors reached the average life expectancy at birth for persons of their time and 82% of the actors lived until at least their late 40s. This may not sound like much by modern standards, but it's a significant figure given that the average life expectancy at birth for most of the actors listed here was in the mid-50s range.

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Once again, proof that only some of what we read on the internet is true. When there is a combination of truth, unconfirmed statements and unrecognized (to the reader) lies, it is often easy to believe all that you've read. I doubt anyone had ulterior motives in any of these falsehoods. Sadly, so many times childhood actors do have problems as adults which also may lead to one believing that in this curse.


Blondie's Journal said...

I never watched this show when it was on re~runs. But it looks like the whole gang was cursed in some way. Very sad.


Chatty Crone said...

I watched the show - not sure if it was first run or second. Sounds like they didn't have to good of luck. And yes - we should check out things a bit.

Happy Mother's Day. ♥sandie

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

I never watched on re-runs but I sure heard of it. They did seem to have their fair share of bad luck. Child stars do seem to have rather tragic lives, I wonder why. Maybe too much fame too soon.

Holly, the Old Western Gal said...

It was a little too soon before my time, but I had heard of the series. Seems a lot of actors have later problems for some reason...